We’ve been in our house for 18+ years and it didn’t take long for us to build a garden. I’ve never had much of a green thumb and I always thought of gardening as an activity for retirees. But there we were, parents in our 40s with two 10-year-old boys, carving a 12×24 foot garden out of a patch of lawn at the back of our property. We call it Fort Knox because it is rimmed with a high fence that keeps Bambi and family away and buried mesh to keep out Thumper, Flower, and Alvin.

Garden early June

The first year was the best — too soon for the bugs to know that the next meal was in our yard. Lots of years later, we’ve had good and bad, along with plenty of garden pests who told their friends that we garden chemical-free. But this year stands out like no other as the year of the volunteer. Let me explain….

Once the kids left the house, we decided that we had the time and motivation to compost. We started dutifully throwing all of our fruit and vegetable scraps in our black cousin-of-R2D2 compost bin.

Immediately we noticed a difference — a mere half-bag of trash remained on most weeks. And after TWO years, we finally had enough compost to spread in the garden. We were under the misconception that compost gets hot enough to kill any seeds that might decide to grow. Wrong, it turns out.

In addition to the beans, greens, and peppers we planted, a whole mess of squash family volunteers took hold from the compost we spread around the garden. I pulled out some of them but others looked so happy that I moved them to strategic spots and let them do their thing. Truly survival of the fittest, the volunteers are besting what we planted in terms of resistance to bugs and ability to live through a very hot, dry summer. The crown jewel is what we think is a Lunch Lady gourd. I picked the first 10-pounder, not knowing that it could get to 20 pounds and needed to dry on the vine. Curious to see what it looked like inside, I cut it open and tasted it. Delicious! So into the oven it went for roasting. Squash in the oven

Wouldn’t you know that the plant would set another one and we’re letting it get to 20 pounds this time. I see lots of squash soup and muffins in our future!

Lunch Lady #2

Here’s a picture of another volunteer, an acorn squash. We’ll harvest it next week. From what I can tell, we also are growing butternut squash, round zucchini, and watermelon, all of which volunteers.

Acorn squash

For a split second, we decided that we should throw away all the fruit and vegetable seeds rather than putting them in the compost bin. But this surprise harvest is so much fun that I think we’ll keep doing what we’re doing!